“At the age of 61, I was content with my life having a loving family, consisting of my husband and son, and also owning a small organisation called Jens Hospitality in Florida. However, the December of 2019 brought in a piece of news that changed my life forever.
At the end of November 2019, I went to a hospital with a possible diagnosis of an abscess (a collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body). However, after the CT scan and some tests, it was revealed that what I had initially thought to be an abscess was actually a large tumour and was something I had not fathomed- it was Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer with the BRCA gene, which increases a person’s risk for cancer.
Without further ado, my trusted oncologist set me up with a plan: Phase 1- that would include three chemotherapy sessions, Phase 2- where I would go through hysterectomy and Phase 3- where there would be three more chemotherapy sessions.
I feel fortunate that I was able to get through Phases 1 & 2 prior to the pandemic declaration of COVID-19. Throughout my treatment, I experienced so much love and support from my family that my urge to keep living for them just heightened. My husband Duane stood like a rock for me the entire time. From managing all the household chores along with his job to cooking food for me and to staying with me day and night, every time I was admitted to the hospital- his dedication towards me was incontestable. The other pillar of my life, my son Jack, would drop everything and fly down to Florida from New York after each chemotherapy session and surgery of mine so that he could take care of me while my husband was at work. Even though he himself had HIV since a young age, he turned out to be my biggest emotional support who would always cheer me up by video-calling me 2-3 times a day and help me feel good about myself in such a tough situation. Apart from these two, it was also my mother who is 92 years ‘young’ and so optimistic about life at such an age who inspired me to have a positive mindset throughout my treatment. Whenever I would think of her, all my pain would suddenly vanish. I guess it was only because of the strength and determination of my loved ones towards me that helped me find mine.
It was only when I had to go for the last phase of my treatment alone for the first time because of the pandemic that I felt how empty my life would be without the presence of my loved ones. Listening to my experience, my son made me realize how hard it must be for women to go to sessions alone and it inspired me to write the song, ‘You Are Not Alone’, in a hope that it will be played throughout chemotherapy centres so that the patients can listen to it and know that they are not alone. In addition to this, I am also writing a book called ‘Cancer Sucks’ about my journey, in order to make the cancer journey of other women easier. My son will also be penning down some chapters based on his experience with my treatment as a young adult. Also, as September happens to be Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, I walked a virtual 5K on the 23rd of September, which also happened to be my 3-months’ remission date.
Even though I am aware that Ovarian cancer with BRCA has a high probability of recurrence and I am on the Lynparza drug to protect myself from it, I still try to look at life as a gift by living in the present and dreaming of the future. As the pandemic situation continues to decline, I’ll try to connect with doctors and ask them to find a way through which the Ovarian cancer can be detected at stage 1 or 2 rather than 3 or 4. I would also like to go out and speak to newly diagnosed women about my journey, answer their questions and offer suggestions to help them get through it smoothly.
As I look back, I appreciate the kindness shown to me from so many people including my family, friends, co-workers, nurses and acquaintances and I believe that one can cross any hurdle in life by knowing that they ARE NOT ALONE- just the way I did.”